It’s April 2020 and the world has officially turned upside down. Empty offices, silent streets, closed borders. Literally every aspect of life has changed overnight and there’s not a single person there who isn’t struggling to adapt to the new situation.
Needless to say that the pandemic paralyzed a lot more than just our day-to-day life. It initiated a multi-dimensional, long-term crisis the consequences of which we are facing till this day. It made us see our reality in a new, both unprecedented and sadly disturbing, light. Suddenly it turned out that we do not have free and unquestionable access to everything. That what we until then considered essential needs are only whims that can be left unsatisfied. But most importantly, we realized that when a crisis comes along, the underprivileged are always the ones to suffer the most.
Another thing about crises, however, is that they have a way of pushing people to think. And so did the pandemic, with a group of young Polish students who, bored of staying at home and deprived of the possibility of social interactions, started to reflect on their current state. They quickly understood that there is much more at stake than just their parties, classes, and jobs. The condition of art and culture, both from the creators’ and the public’s perspective, was strongly affected by the situation.
With museums and galleries closed, festivals canceled, and art courses transferred online, the space for public debates or any contact with art whatsoever was diminished, if not completely prevented. Not to mention the actual artists, especially the young and unknown ones, who were only just starting their professional career and who were then left without the possibility of growth or financial profit.
It so happens that the aforementioned students considered access to culture and art to be a key social value, crucial for the development of human sensitivity. Realizing it was in danger, they decided to fight for what they care about and revolutionize our understanding of the approach to art. This is how SPLEEN was born.
Initially a very general, vague idea, with time it turned into an ambitious, innovative project. Today, SPLEEN is a foundation taking its first steps in the art world, with the main goal of creating a safe and attractive creative space for young artists.
Our starting point was to comprehend that nowadays, in the face of a crisis, the center of all activity instantly moves to the Internet. We were aware of the fact that art thrives in social circumstances: it needs to be exposed, commented on, it requires interaction with the public. It was simply impossible for creators to fulfill their potential in lockdown conditions. – says Julia, one of the founders of the project – We decided to build a web-based space that would enable the artist-audience exchange, even when our physical contact was strongly limited.
But it quickly stopped being just about the world crisis. The art market has always been hostile and unfavorable to young artists whose names are not yet acknowledged, the pandemic only made it worse. What the team wanted was to launch an initiative that would be professional enough to compete with traditional art institutions, but also convincing enough in its innovativeness to be able to abolish the conventional concept of art trade.
So the founders of SPLEEN, Julia Michalczyk, Kuba Wyczesany, and Maciek Kaleciński undertook the ambitious project. As students with a great vision, but with a modest budget, they decided to build everything from scratch, from assembling a team, through gathering a group of artists, to designing their own website. The latter is the focal point of the project activity: its experimental design and edgy aesthetics are in line with their general mission: to encourage young artists to actively participate in the art world, but in a way that is reflective of the fresh and nonconformist nature of youth.
At the moment, the Foundation collects 13 young, talented creators on the website, where they present their portfolio and promote their artistic profile. Part of each artist’s work is intended for sale, thus creating opportunities for their professional development. SPLEEN’s artists come mainly, but not only, from Krakow, Poland, and create in a variety of mediums, from oil painting, through digital and traditional printmaking, to experimental photography. The team is planning on organizing a collective, inaugural exhibition in the near future. They also hope to start publishing catalogs and printed portfolios really soon.
We believe that together we have the potential to significantly influence the contemporary art scene’s by activating, integrating and supporting young people whose goal is to create art in the broadest sense, and who need this support the most. – emphasizes Maciek – We want to broaden their voice in the society because we think that it is up to them to take responsibility for the changing world and social conditions. They are the ones to constitute the strength and attractiveness of the next generation of artists. And we are willing to help them become as powerful as they possibly can.